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Rheingold is probably the most consistent modern Grave Digger album. I fully understand that I risk redundancy by stating this, as Grave Digger rivals the great Overkill in terms of tenacity and perseverance. Regardless, Boldendahl's crew has never been able to deliver the goods for an entire album, coming close on efforts such as Excalibur and Knights of the Cross. Rheingold falls short of the prize as well, but it embodies the band's most concerted effort to date in the process.
Boltendahl has always been big on the historical lyrical themes, so Wagner's epic naturally translates well into the heavy metal arena, especially when it is espoused by his primal, gritty inflection. He cleans up his approach for most of the choruses, channeling Blind Guardian and adding to the cinematic scope of Rheingold. On most Grave Digger albums his harsh roars can grow tiring, but there is just enough variety and quality songwriting here to keep the pressure off of him for the bulk of the proceedings. Interesting deviations occur during the spoken-word segments of "Sword" or the crooning present on the closer "Twilight of the Gods".
Schmidt's monstrous riffs are the real highlight here, though. They are bold, meaty, and exude classic metal influences out of every proverbial pore. He has a pretty distinctive riffing style, most evident on the impressive "Giants", and "Dragon"; the latter of which features a stomping groove. It seems that most listeners consider "Valhalla" the best track here. While potent and earnest in its delivery, it still pales to its successor, "Giants", which contains the most impressive isolated riff on the entire album. While not necessarily technically mind-blowing, Schmidt's riffs are the kind that are a blast to play air-guitar to in the mirror. This isn't to take away from his solos, which also employ restraint and have a great melodic appeal, such as the end of "Dragon".
The keyboards I can go either way on. The orchestral build-up "The Ring (Overture)" is potent, but it ends up being a bit of an anti-climax when you realize there are several tracks superior to the title track that would have served as a more punishing introduction to the album. To Katzenburg's credit, he does texture some convincing faux-orchestral passages. The problem is that he only appears during interludes and breaks in the action, making the entire performance come off as a bit superfluous in the end, akin to window-dressing. The rhythm section is powerful, since Becker can hardly do wrong on the bass. The deliberate, measured drum performance actually accentuates Schmidt's riffs very well, perhaps lending even more force to their sonic delivery.
The tracks that fall a bit short are "Maidens of War" and "Murderer". The quality is still there, but the riffs don't have the same lasting power, so Boltendahl begin to grow tiring as the songs wear on. I'm also a bit indifferent to the closer "Twilight of the Gods". It is ambitious, but I feel that it spends too much time wallowing in its own ostentation and never really evolves into the quintessential end cap that it really wants to be.
Regardless, this is where Grave Digger initiates need to start, as the material here is both easy to enjoy and has deeper significance lyrically. The grave is open, and the digger smiles.
Admittedly I don't listen to a whole deal of power metal, but I am convinced that the other fuckers out there would have a fucking hard time competing with "Rheingold", the the glorious 10th studio album from German stalwarts Grave Digger. For every bit as awesome and pretty much perfect as "The Grave Digger" was, "Rheingold" is somehow even better. Based on the work "Das Ring des Nibelungen" (The Ring of the Nibelung) created by classical German maestro Richard Wagner, Grave Digger's 2003 effort rises to the occasion with their usual vigor times ten. The riffs, choruses, solos, vocals, all now less then just great power metal, but more now an epic that nearly matches the great classics of Maestro Wagner.
The line-up from 'The Grave Digger" returns with a vengeance on here. Chris Boltendahl lets his raspy yells and howls go all out, yet there's a certain sense of him restraining just slightly, probably in order not to go too OTT. Manni Schmidt's guitar work is even stronger; his riffs are highly memorable and stupendous, not mention his immense solos being filled with power and emotion. Jens Becker's bass is sadly downplayed on here more than on the last album; he gets buried under the guitar and mostly just goes along with it but helps add that much needed extra boost of heaviness anyhow. Stefan Arnold's drumming is still pretty articulate, pounding and precise, while the keyboards of HP Katzenberg are even more prominent than on "The Grave Digger", lending a rich and often epic atmosphere to a number of tracks.
There are 10 tracks on "Rheingold". Or should I say ten masterpieces of modern heavy metal done right and then some? Grave Digger takes today's power metal and gives it fucking BALLS on "Rheingold". Where to start...well, maybe "Dragon"? That chorus is silly but so badass at the same time; addictive and easy to sing along with. "Giants" also pounds along with a braindead-simple chorus but the energy of the riffs and the big solo turn it into something great, while the merciless speed metal tune "Liar" blazes with a stronger, catchier chorus to go with the slicing guitars and booming drums. "Sword" is quite great too, a slower, even doomy tale with a building, intense chorus that will be sure to raise your hair on end. Like any good metal album we have serious highlights, and on here we have the awesome "Valhalla" and the incredible "Maidens of War". "Valhalla" is just too cool, a high octane rocker with one of the catchiest, most addictive main riffs of any song I ever heard, not to mention that pre-chorus and chorus; dead simple but oh so fun to sing with! "Maidens of War" is even better. This song is loaded with sharp tempo changes, going from a breezy speed metal song during the breaks to slow and semi-acoustic in the verses. Then the chorus...wow. There is SO MUCH energy and passion behind this chorus that it's impossible not to get in to. Let's just say I got a few odd looks at me at work while listening to this one.
Overall, "Rheingold" fucking rocks. There are zero "skip" songs, loads of energy within the band, and more incredible choruses and memorable riffs than you get shake a used dragonforce LP at. If you don't have this masterpiece yet, then get it NOW; if you love and appreciate good power metal, then you're not gonna be sorry.
I always thought that "The Last Supper" would be my favourite album of Grave Digger but after paying closer attention to it predecessor, I must admit that "Rheingold" is slightly better as it has even more to offer. Maybe this album needs some time to grow as it is more complex than its follow up and that’s why it took me some time to realize and fully appreciate its rich qualities.
The band just plays the magic mixture on this record. There are typical heavy metal anthems like the dynamical "Valhalla" that convinces with a great chorus or the short and very fast "Liar", mystical and majestic passages that fit to the legendary topic like "Murderer" or "Dragon" and eerie ballads in the style of "Maidens of War" and "Goodbye" can be found on this outstanding record. Let me point out that this is for the last time that they perform one of their brilliant ballads with softer and clean vocals on a studio album and the reason might be that they reached out for the climax on this record. The greatest thing might be that there is not one single filler on the entire album. I highly suggest grabbing the special edition with the two bonus tracks that continue the "Rheingold" legacy and are as strong as the other ten songs. The songs should have made it both on the regular records and Grave Digger proves once again that their bonus tracks are worth being listened to and being purchased. If you want to check the style of this album out quickly, I would suggest listening to "Twilight of the Gods", the longest track on this record that unites some bits and pieces of all the songs and their different attitudes on this record. If you happen to like this song you won't do anything wrong by purchasing this record. I would compare the musical style of this album to "Heart of Darkness" with the conceptual skills of the Medieval Age trilogy.
The cover artwork and especially the lyrical conception are once again very interesting and well done and might introduce the world to an entertaining and legendary epic German tale and also a great German opera. But while a few slight orchestra and choir passages can be found on the album like in the dark and slow doom epic "Sword", the band plays as straight with all their typical trademarks as on the previous records. This record is a true piece of German culture and unites all the things and styles one likes about this band. The album is diversified, entertaining and addicting. Depending of which mood I am in, this albums offers anything I need to listen to concerning good heavy metal: straight and aggressive vocals, high pitched shrieks, soft vocals, pumping riffs, a couple of good solo guitars, some honestly said less stunning but overall solid pumping bass guitar riffs and drum patterns as well as some great orchestrations.
In the end, even after so many years, the band still pushes further and higher and presents a diversified high quality record with some truly surprising and addicting tracks. If you like traditional heavy metal with some slightly open minded approaches towards power and symphonic metal you should get this album right away.
In the world of german speed metal, it's hard to maintain your individuality. With all sorts of bands coming out a dime a dozen, it's easy to get lost in the world of bier infested anthems sung in a thick accent over galloping drums and NWOBHM inspired riffs sped up. Nonetheless, Grave Digger separate themselves from the crowd. Do they do it by writing sappy ballads and flowery anthems?
They do it by kicking more ass, being heavier and sicker than the competition, and doing it in the good ol' drunken fashion. Yes, with Boltendahl's "german street drunk" style of singing, over crushing riffs, gigantic choirs, and superfluous double bass, Grave Digger pummel you into the ground with Rheingold. I must say this is their best effort so far. Whereas past efforts had filler, Rheingold has none. Every song is headbangable and full of shout along (Boltendahl doesn't sing, he shouts and bellows) chorii, and every riff is a crushing menace filled to the brim with aggression and bile.
Of course, it helps that this is a viking saga, based off of Wagner's Ring cycle. While it would be a challenge to infer this from the lyrics (Boltendahl is not the most talented lyricwriter), it doesn't matter, because you still want to scream along to the incredibly simple but incredibly effective lyrics. However, Grave Digger is a riff driven band, and this is a riff driven album. Keyboards exist, and in heavy portions, but like all good metal, it's the riffs that drive this, and boy are they tasty. Forget Manowar, this is what Manowar should've been doing during the last 2 decades (Louder than Hell, Warriors of the World, Gods of War). Heavy, riff driven, and full of piss and vinegar. This is recommended HIGHLY for fans of true POWER metal, not flower metal. There is nothing flowery about Grave Digger, this is one hundred percent kick-your-ass power metal from the heart of the Deutschland. And don't you forget it.
After Grave Digger had released the more “heavy metal” selftitled album in 2001 they decided to go back to the more orchestral path with this album, that they had done with the “Middle Ages Trilogy”. Bigger arrangements and choirs in pre-choruses/choruses and even more space for the keyboard. This is probably the album where keyboard player HP. Katzenburg can be heard more than ever while being in the band, still it’s just there for giving a great atmosphere without being too much and take over, and it really gives a great atmosphere. Maybe this comes naturally, I think HP was more included in songwriting (because of all orchestral parts and so), he was also the one that proposed the idea of making a concept album about Michael Wagners “The Ring Of Nibelungs”. It fits perfectly as a concept for the album as the lyrics and the little storytelling in the booklet is awesome.
It’s not only HP that makes a great work on the album, Chris Boltendahl’s vocal performance is top notch both in lower and higher stages. His screams still holds and his graspy lower voice still rocks too. Manni Schmidt’s guitar playing is excellent and technical, his solos on this album are almost all awesome, behind this we can hear Jens Becker’s bass, which absolutely can be heard. And we all know he’s a good bass player. Drummer Stefan Arnold also makes a great work with great cymbal playing, especially on the song “Liar” where the drumming shines through. I can though feel on some songs that he’s holding back a little, and playing really simple, “Valhalla” for example, could for example played some cool fills in the solo passage. But in general, he makes a awesome performance.
The album opens with the traditional intro which is called “The Ring” and is a nice introduction to the album. Build up with cool keyboards and orchestral instruments. As for the other songs on the album we have fast ones like “Giants” and the short but awesome “Liar”, and the really heavy monsters “Sword”, “Dragon”. The power-ballady but awesome “Maidens Of War” and the NWOBHM-ish “Valhalla” with it’s awesome and big choir pre-chorus. The album do have one weak track, the slow and halfboring “Murderer”. It can sure be counted as a ballad, a really melodic one. It does though have a really great solo passage. All other songs are cool.
There are however two tracks I would like to go on deeper with, first off the fast and heavy title song, “Rheingold” which is for sure one of the best songs on the album. Ripping verses, a really cool and big pre-chorus and a mysterious and cool sounding chorus. The solo by Manni on this one is absolutely perfect, and the best solo passage on the whole album. Another track I would like to mention is the long and epic ending song “Twilight Of The Gods”, easily on my top 10 Grave Digger songs. Heavy intro, epic and moderately fast verses where the keyboards can be heard as a nice back up in the background, giving the verses the epic sound. The chorus is a made “screaming” chorus with a simple yet awesome Twilight – Of – The – Gods, with cool riffs behind. The guitar solo shred by Manni is freaking awesome and emotional. The songs ends with a EXCELLENT acoustic guitar part with a hollow wind sound in the background, a beatufil ending of a splendid album.
The production that is nailed is heavy one, with pounding bassdrums in the mix, rough guitar sound, awesome orchestral arrangements and a loud bass, nothing at all to be sad for, it’s just to bang the head. To compare this with other albums in the “Manni-era”, I do personally prefer the little rougher sound on “The Grave Digger” a little bit more, but this is not far away. So, Rheingold, in my opinion the third best album Grave Digger has done and they have have created a epic and heavy concept album that should please all fans of heavy/power metal.
3 best songs: Rheingold, Twilight Of The Gods, Dragon
ALBUM OF THE YEAR!
Ok, so the final judgement of this year’s metal offerings may yet be some six months premature, but I’m sure that at year’s end, two albums will be key forces in the final battle: the monstrous true power metal releases of Grave Digger’s RHEINGOLD or Cage’s DARKER THAN BLACK, both reviewed here this month.
Never doubt the Digger, that’s what I’ve learned. Though Grave Digger’s last two albums, EXCALIBUR, and THE GRAVE DIGGER were good albums, I thought that they were not up to par with the mastery of such epics and KNIGHTS OF THE CROSS or TUNES OF WAR, the best works in their catalog. Knowing that Grave Digger was gearing to release a concept album based on composer Richard Wagner’s The Ring/The Nibelungs operas, I felt that there were only two possible outcomes: a). Pompously bloated and symphonic or b).The best Grave Digger album ever. Guess which answer is correct.
Grave Digger unload with both barrels on this album. The speed metal side of Grave Digger and the epic power metal side of the band come together seamlessly into what is simply a monstrously heavy, absolutely incredible work. Manni Schmidt, especially, explodes here. The riffs are to the point, and catchy as hell, while the solos are awesome (especially on the title track). Uwe Lulis who? Hahaha.
It wouldn’t be a Grave Digger album without an intro, and “The Ring” fills that role nicely. Somewhat atypical for Grave Digger, this one is a sweeping keyboard epic, the operatic piece leading right into the title track.
Ok, guys, hold on. “Rheingold” rips straight ahead with the Grave Digger trademark crunch, a bombast of riffs pummeling. What’s this? HOLY SHIT! This chorus is fukken HUGE! Even the chorus is heavy as hell, and has a great atmosphere. We’ve got a nice, quick post-chorus continuation of the dark atmosphere through some keys, then right back into the riffs. Manni treats us to about a full-minute of kickass soloing about halfway through. The band does not slow down at all for “Valhalla.” The main riff here is uber-catchy, as is the epic bridge takes us to the silly chorus: “Valhalla! Valhalla! Valhalla! Valhalla!” Yeah, so lyrical geniuses Grave Digger are not. I bet this one will go over huge in their live set. “Giants” is very much like the previous track, though the guitars are even more crunchy. Same goofy chorus style, though. I love the Wagnerian keyboard piece kicking in around 2:25, followed by some great melodic guitar fills and another great solo. “Maidens of War” is probably my second favourite track on the album. It builds with a short acoustic intro leading up to the opening riff that is without doubt the best riff on the album. Where the hell is my towel? This gives way to an Iced Earth-NotSR-“Reaching the End” kind of interlude. The chorus here is not as big as on “Rheingold,” but very well written and a pure epic. We also get bits of the famous “Ride of the Valkyries” lead in the last few minutes of the track. “Sword” and “Dragon” are good tracks; nothing new there, just catchy, heavy riffs. “Liar” is the most efficient track on the album with 2:46 of pure speed riffing. Yeah, I’m headbanging like a madman to this one. I hope you’re taking notes here, because this is how metal is to be played. “Murderer” is a beautiful pseudo-ballad, not sacrificing any heaviness at all, but still managing to come up with some of the best atmosphere on the album and a chorus just pulsating with power. As if we haven’t been blown away sufficiently by the first 38 minutes of RHEINGOLD, here is “Twilight of the Gods” to remind us of everything for which Grave Digger stands. This track has all the goodness of a 20+ minute epic into just over seven minutes. This is the masterpiece of the album, with tons of variations in tempo, atmosphere, and style. The main riff in each verse has a headbanging coefficient like no other, and Stefan Arnold’s drumming absolutely pummels. Wow. This is definitely Grave Digger’s best song ever.
Fans of Grave Digger, and fans of Power Metal must own this album, no questions asked. Hell, any fan of metal would be incomplete if he does not score this one. Holy piss does this album rule!
(originally written by me for www.metal-rules.com, June, 2003)
Despite several great releases throughout the year (Hate Crew Deathroll, Rabbit Don't Come Easy and Born A Rebel most notably), Grave Digger's latest offering beats the shit out of any of these, and is by far the album of the year.
It's the bands second offering since the departure of guitarist Uwe Lulis, who was one of the key elements in the sound and greatness of Grave Digger. He was replaced by Manni Schmidt, who on this album proves that he can easily fill out the shoes of his predecessor. He belts out tons of thunderous aggressive riffs and mindblowing solos, and does show a more virtuose and varied guitar ability than Lulis had.
The album, as previously stated, is in the classic vein of late Grave Digger, combining the sound of the middle-ages trilogy and darker self-titled album well, and they come out with a masterpiece. Rheingold is the second greatest Grave Digger album ever, beaten only by Excalibur.
The guitar tone is pretty odd at first listen; melodic and kind of electronic, but it totally works. The guitarwork is menacing, and the solos especially are better than ever. The melodic and memorable lead sections found in Rheingold and Valhalla are just divine, and the solos on Giants and Sword are pretty damn crazy and completely unpredictable.
The riffs are heavy, aggressive and powerful yet with a melodic undertone which is enhanced by the guitar sound, and as usual they go incredibly well with Chris Boltendahl's raw, gruff vocals, creating the basis for a kickass Grave Digger album. The bass and drums provide a very solid backbone. The bass is perfectly loud in the mix, mostly backing up the guitars. The drum sound is thick as hell, and the drumming is powerful and intense, although not the most original or unpredictable I've ever heard.
The album is based on Wagner's Saga of the Nibelungs and is a perfect tale concept for a Grave Digger album, giving it the necessary power and atmosphere (Rheingold, Valhalla), emotional depth (Maidens of War) and epic feeling (Twilight of the Gods). The epic stuff is what they do best, these guys, which they prove once again with this masterpiece.
Every single song is amazing, there are no weak spots at all on here. Rheingold, Valhalla and Giants are speed fucking metal monsters, with tons of riffs and perfect headbanging moments, melodic solos and intense vocals.
Sword and Dragon are pretty midpaced. The first being a more standard Grave Digger track (which is a great thing, after all) comparable to The Bruce and The Round Table, with crushing riffwork and a brilliant solo. The second is more groove-laden, with very catchy basswork that gets highlighted at times throughout the song, and a totally crazy chorus.
And everything else slays equally much or more. The best song on here, and the best fucking Grave Digger song ever: Maidens of War. I can't even begin to describe just how much it owns. The passion and emotion displayed in Boltendahl's clean vocals is greater than ever before, his gruff voice also show a great emotional depth, and the perfect combination of intensity and melody in the wicked riffwork totally blows me away each time I hear it. The numerous time changes are perfectly placed and well-thought out. All these factors together provide a true masterpiece, which alone should be reason for anyone to buy this.
Rheingold features ten songs, and ten masterpieces. From the orchestral intro of The Ring to the acoustic outro to the epic closer Twilight of the Gods, this is complete ownage like you've never seen before. Grave Digger continues to deliver the goods, and hopefully will keep doing so for many years to come.
Oh fuck yeah!!! Overkill just got bumped down a notch... this is just fucking awesome power/speed metal - the likes of which haven't been seen since Blind Guardian's Tales from the Twilight World album. Epic sing-along choruses combined with MONSTER FUCKING RIFFS. That's right, kids, here's a power metal albums that has not one, not two, but fifteen goddamn testicles, each the size of a small refrigerator!!
Okay, please, let us move on past the disturbing imagery and focus on the music. Manowarrior pretty much did the track-by-track summary, so I'll just have to point out that the two greatest songs on here are definitely Valhalla and Maidens of War. Man, that chorus is indeed dumber than a basket full of no brains, but a whole fuckload of fun to sing along with. VALHALLA!! VALHALLA!!
Quickly now, Blind Guardian "Valhalla" vs. Grave Digger "Valhalla"? I'd go with Grave Digger. That fucking good. Then, "Maidens of War" is a bit more epic, as he mentioned a fucking masterpiece. "Killing! Fighting for victory!!" Oh man, I swear to God that's Hansi Kursch in the pre-chorus part ... "but I can't kill your son, your blood!" This is the album where Chris Boltendahl becomes more than a tolerable vocalist and turns into one of the best vocalists I've ever heard. The lots and lots of backing vocal layers help a lot, but in general he fucking pwns here.
Also, very close in quality is "Giants" - man, these three back to back are just classic headbanging material, and also the more epic title track, which is an awesome fucking opener with a glorious singalong chorus. Kids, do not listen to the bad peoples that have declared the weakness and the stupidity that is Sonata Arctica to be the epitome of heavy metal. Grave Digger is HEAVY FUCKING METAL. If you like any previous Grave Digger album, whether that be Excalibur or Heavy Metal Breakdown, you will like this one! I guarantee it! And if you don't, I'll give you a used car!
The rest of the album - it actually maintains the consistency of the first few songs... not QUITE as good as Maidens and Valhalla (oh man, what is??) but still, it is excellent, excellent shit. Sword is bludgeoning and midpaced, and probably the heaviest song on here. Only the one who feels no terror can forge the steel that created you! Steel by steel! The hammer falls! Everyone sing along now while getting bludgeoned by the riffage, and yes I swear that's Hansi on backing vocals!
Dragon has the funniest chorus on here... Kill! Kill! The dragon!! Oh yeah, it doesn't get cheesier than this, but man what about that riff underneath all that? Let it be written, let it be done, that this is not fucking flower metal. This is heavy as fuck - even the morbid thrashers like me can enjoy the fucking fuck out of that one. No cheese to be found in the music, and fuck if it happens in the lyrics, they still rule.
Murderer is a Helloween cover. Well, no. I thought it was pretty funny that there were three Helloween song titles and one Blind Guardian... Murderer is pretty much the ballad, and it's very very well done - a nice counterpoint to the speed metal "Liar" that came before it. "By the Liar! By the Sinner!" Man, this is not a by the numbers song, and not weak at all. Sorry, Manowarrior, but I just ejaculated on your corpse. Nice fucking solo too! Then we get the last track, Twilight of the Gods. This one goes through a lot of different styles, like Maidens of War except more so - especially in the middle, there is a definite epic feel, but then check out that blazing speed metal coming out of nowhere. Painkiller, you left a riff behind.
Oh man, this is the greatest power/speed album of the past few years. Since probably Powerplant, it's just as good as that one... maybe even better. This is the album that puts Grave Digger into the 'complete fucking legends' category.